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Fertility Apps

Fertility apps are mobile apps that promote wellness, treat and diagnose disease, aid clinical decision- making, and manage patient care from the comfort of home. Patients suffering from infertility might find these apps helpful pre-fertility treatment as they can help to manage lifestyle factors, during treatment to manage medications and calendar appointments, use message boards where they can share experiences, seek or offer peer support, track and chart medical information such as cervical fluid, basal body temperature, and fertility medications and to time intercourse. Could you guess how many fertility awareness apps there are out there? 100! And they have more than 200 million downloads!

Fertility apps are changing the field of reproductive medicine to make it more understandable and easier to manage for patients! We understand that infertility is not easy to navigate and with rapidly developing technology comes some awesome apps that will do all the navigation for you!

ART Compass

ART Compass is a fertility app! It makes the process of IVF so much easier not only for clinics but for patients as well! You are able to view images of your embryos and also view their pre-implantation genetic testing status! All your data is in one place, easily accessible to you the patient! There is no hassle in trying to communicate with your IVF clinic either when you use ART Compass! Fertility apps should all have one goal in common, to make your TTC journey less stressful and complicated and ART Compass does just that!

Natural Cycles the app and the data it’s provided

Harper et. al. looked at over half a million ovulation cycles worth of data collected via the FDA Approved Natural Cycles app to enhance our understanding of the key stages of ovulation. The results demonstrated that few women have that textbook 28 day cycle, with some experiencing very short or very long cycles. The findings show that an average cycle lasts for 29.3 days and only approximately 13% of cycles are 28 days in length! In the entire study, only 65% of women had cycles that lasted between 25 and 30 days. The Natural Cycles app claims to be useful as a hormone free method of birth control. Some studies have demonstrated a “typical use” failure rate over 13 menstrual cycles of 8.3%.

Further Research

An additional 25 apps out of 140 reviewed (17.9%) contain information or functions specifically related to infertility or its management. High quality infertility applications were noted as allowing users to track fertility medications, symptoms  and results. Additional features include reminders of fertility doctor appointments and when to administer fertility medication, results tracking (including blood type information, sperm counts and blood levels), notes section for tracking of issues for later reference, and ability to track symptoms. Menstrual tracking applications have been consistently assessed for their  functionality and accuracy. This particular research has revealed a downside to fertility apps. In 2016, Moglia et al. scored 108 menstrual tracking  applications, and their primary criterion for ongoing inclusion was accuracy. They concluded “Most free smartphone menstrual cycle tracking apps for patient use are  inaccurate. Few cite medical literature or health professional involvement.”

Updating this analysis in 2019, Zwingerman et. al. Identified 140 menstrual tracking applications, with a low overall app quality score of 32%, and a further thirty-one apps (22.1%) with serious inaccuracies in content, tools, or both. When 218 menstrual tracking apps were assessed in 2016 for their use in preventing unintended pregnancy, over 40% were found to not mention any modern contraceptive methods at all.This A systematic review by Mangone et al. found that very few fertility awareness applications have clinically relevant, evidence-based usefulness, and many of them may even increase the likelihood of unintended pregnancy due to the low effectiveness of the contraceptive methods promoted. For this reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists only advocates use of mobile applications to track menstrual cycles, not as a primary tool to prevent or achieve pregnancy .

Additionally, there have been major HIPAA compliance concerns with some fertility tracking apps. These applications often ask for intimate details: sexual activity, history of abortions, cervical mucus consistency, orgasm frequency, preferred sex positions. It was recently reported that the Glow (a pregnancy planning app) app was plagued by a series of security flaws, exposing sensitive  information to anyone who cared to look. It was characterized as a “Jackpot for Stalkers.” They have since added a new section to their website, inviting hackers to “research” security flaws and responsibly report them.

There are clearly many upsides and downsides to fertility apps. This is why it is crucial to choose the right one. You can do so by doing a little research by reading customer reviews for apps and understanding what specific services they provide! And of course, in today’s day and age, privacy is important! So watch out for some apps that don’t seem the most secure! All in all, fertility apps can help you navigate infertility with ease if you choose the right one.

References:

Berglund Scherwitzl, E., et al., Perfect-use and typical-use Pearl Index of a contraceptive mobile app. Contraception, 2017. 96(6): p. 420-425.

Moglia, M.L., et al., Evaluation of Smartphone Menstrual Cycle Tracking Applications Using an Adapted APPLICATIONS Scoring System. Obstet Gynecol, 2016. 127(6): p. 1153-60.

Mangone, E.R., V. Lebrun, and K.E. Muessig, Mobile Phone Apps for the Prevention of Unintended Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Content Analysis. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 2016. 4(1): p. e6.

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